CINCINNATI - A group of Cincinnati veterans is getting a helping hand from a Hollywood star as they make the transition back to civilian life.
Actor and veterans’ advocate Gary Sinise came to town Thursday to honor 11 vets who made the inaugural class of the Get Skills to Work program.
The ceremony was held Thursday morning at the Cincinnati State Workforce Development Center on Reading Road.
The program was created to help veterans get the skills they need to compete for careers in advanced manufacturing.
Organizers said the program is the first of its kind in the nation.
The program is partnered with the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College to train veterans in skills such as blueprint reading, electrical systems and more.
Once the vets make it through the program, they earn a nationally recognized and accredited Manufacturing Skills Standards Council credential.
Sinise said Thursday that veterans have a lot to offer employers. He said the program in Cincinnati provides the support needed to help veterans make the transition to civilian jobs.
“These people provide freedom, the fight for freedom. They don’t as much and we have an obligation to take care of them when they make their transition from military service into the civilian workforce,” Sinise said.
Sinise played double-amputee Lt. Dan Taylor in the movie "Forrest Gump" and raises money for disabled vets through charity concerts with his Lt. Dan Band. He also heads the Gary Sinise Foundation that supports programs helping veterans, their families and others.
In a release, program officials said it is estimated that of the approximately 600,000 advanced manufacturing jobs available national, 82 percent of employers said they are unable to find skilled workers to fill the positions.
While those employers look for workers, program officials said many veterans remain unemployed and about 1 million men and women will likely transition from the military to civilian life over the next four years. Of those, 18,000 are likely to return to the Tri-State.
Vanessa Maples spent 13 years in the National Guard. She said she found that many of the skills she learned in the military did not translate well in the civilian workforce.
Maples was on the of the first to enroll in the intensive, four-week program.
“I want to go into quality control, or some type of non-destructive testing,” Maples said.
General Electric, the Manufacturing Institute, Alcoa Inc., Boeing and LockheedMartin are also part of the program.
Company officials said one of the program’s goals is to train and match 100,000 veterans by 2015.
The event also featured speakers including Sinise, David Joyce, president and CEO GE Aviation; O’dell M. Owens, president, Cincinnati State; and Jim Golem, president, Cincinnati GSTW Advisory Board and Director of Human Resources, CTL Aerospace Inc.
“These people have qualifications that are unheard of. (They have) a lot of discipline,” said Jim Golem of CTL Areospace.
“A strong and forward-looking manufacturing industry is central to the long-term health and success of the U.S. economy,” Joyce said in a release. “Veterans embody many leadership qualities that can help drive growth at GE and among our suppliers and community partners. This is an important step in a nationwide effort to help these men and women compete for long-term careers in the manufacturing sector, and ultimately drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness.”
The program will be repeated and tailored at cities including Ft. Worth and Houston, Texas; Schenectady, New York; Greenville, S.C.; Durham, N.C.; and Evansville, Ind.
To fill jobs in the Cincinnati area, local companies including GE, CTL Aerospace, Richards Industries, Meyer Tool, Acuren and Rhinestahl have pledged to actively recruit from the pool of new workers.
“Military veterans have a lot to offer, including a strong work ethic, teamwork, problem solving skills and the ability to perform under pressure. These skills will serve veterans well in corporate America. Today’s ceremony in Cincinnati illustrates that with the proper training and tools, we can provide our veterans support for a smoother transition to successful civilian employment,” Sinise said.
For more on the Get Skills to Work program, click here: http://www.getskillstowork.org/.
Copyright AP Modified, Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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